Posts Tagged ‘Belfast Area High School’

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Glassblowing in Belfast

December 1, 2021

Blowing glass is magic – ask anyone that’s done it!

Waterfall Arts in Belfast realized that they had a unique opportunity offered to them during the pandemic. But they faced many challenges just trying to get the idea off the ground. With a positive attitude and a new partnership their journey is already making a huge impact. This is the story of how that came about and a reminder of the importance of commitment, collaboration, and believing in an idea! Without these in place the dream would not reach fruition. And, it’s only at the beginning! I recognize and celebrate Waterfall Arts and their new partnership and what they’re providing for learners of all ages, especially local high school students.

PLEASE NOTE: At the end of this post I invite you to leave a comment and/or to use the questions for a local conversation.

BACKGROUND

Veteran glass blower David Jacobson realized his well established glass blowing business, Jacobson Glass Studio in Montville, was at a crossroads when the pandemic hit. In September 2020 David approached Waterfall Arts and spoke to Executive Director Kim Fleming about donating his glass studio equipment to Waterfall. Realizing what an opportunity this was Kim enthusiastically consulted with the Waterfall board. They agreed and collaborated with David and his glass blowing colleague Carmi Katsir to transform the Waterfall Arts basement into a glass studio.

David and Carmi demonstrating

THE STORY

When I listened to their story I was amazed how quickly things happened. David first communicated with Kim in the middle of September 2020 and during the first week in October the equipment was moved into the building. In the spirit of true artists they climbed over the logs in their pathway to problem solve, research, ask questions and learn, and find ways to attack the challenges. Combined with hours and hours of work, physical and mental, and financial support from funders and the greater community they opened the studio with a variety of purposes in mind.

Before they could open the studio there were many details to figure out besides just putting equipment in place. Investing money in this project was an enormous commitment. Kim secured funding from individuals and foundations including $10,000 to be used for disadvantaged students. The budget to run the program for two semesters is $25,000. One of the bigger hurdles was how to fuel the furnace that holds 100 pounds of clear, liquid glass and is kept at about 2,100 degrees. Plus the two forges that are used to heat up the glass as a piece is being formed and is kept at 2,300 degrees. Waterfall’s philosophy includes a commitment to be as green and as carbon-neutral as possible. So using natural gas or propane was not feasible. They researched to learn how they could build the system using discarded vegetable oil that is donated by a local donut shop. There are no models in Maine so it meant communicating with people outside of the state. They also learned that along with being the only community based glass studio in Maine they are only one of a handful of programs in the entire country that offer glass classes through the public school for students.

Miles opening the glass

WATERFALL ARTS STUDIOS

Waterfall Arts ceramics, printmaking, and photography studios are well established at the non-profit organization. Adding a glass studio was an easy decision but with filled with unknowns. Kim was able to acquire funding to purchase what they needed and build on the equipment and tools that David was providing to make a studio large enough for several people. David really wants to share his love for glass blowing with as many people as possible. So there are classes available to anyone from almost any age, no matter what their financial situation. David’s passion coupled with Waterfall’s goal of reaching others, who have not had this type of opportunity in the past, is a perfect marriage. It wasn’t long after the studio was set up that they began offering classes to individuals and groups. During the summer many people took advantage of the studio.

MAINE ART EDUCATION ASSOCIATION FALL CONFERENCE

I had the privilege in September to participate in the Maine Art Education Association (MAEA) conference. Hats off to this year’s conference planners Brooke Holland and Anthony Lufkin who shifted from the traditional conference at Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, due to the pandemic, and planned sessions in 12 studios across the state. I was in the glass studio at Waterfall Arts and it was a spectacular and fun experience. I was so impressed with the teaching of David and Carmi. I had only one previous glass blowing experience and this was quite different and extensive compared to that one. Our abilities varied greatly and yet the participants easily collaborated and supported each other making four pieces during the 2-day workshop.

Collaborating to open the top of the glass to form the shape

WATERFALL ARTS’ STORY, PURPOSE AND MISSION

To create community in harmony with nature through the transformative power of the arts. When the founding group of Waterfall Arts formed the idea in 2000 their shared goals for the future: to create aesthetic experiences that enhance and inspire people’s creative abilities and transform their lives. An equally important goal was to reach people who had not had such opportunities before.

Along with the studios used for classes and by individuals Waterfall has 16 private studios which are fully occupied at this time. During the pandemic it was difficult for some of the artists to pay rent. Waterfall was able to support these artists by waiving 2 months of rent. An amazing gesture to support individuals who needed it most.

In addition, Waterfall Arts has a variety of ongoing programs and events that are available year round. I suggest you spend some time on their WEBSITE.

Gathering glass

BELFAST AREA HIGH SCHOOL CLASS

In January 2021 the principal, Jeff Lovejoy, contacted Kim to learn what might be available for Belfast Area High School students to take for a semester long elective class. The high school building is a stone’s throw, across the road from Waterfall, so the outreach from school is a no-brainer. Mr. Lovejoy visited Waterfall for a walk through and discuss possibilities. He got excited about the glass lab. Kim put together a budget proposal to run a semester long class, twice a year. Kim scurried to secure funding in time to promote the class for the fall semester.

Jonah rolling the glass on the marver

PROCESS

There are not a lot of tools needed for the process of glass blowing. Steel rods are kept warm and dipped into the molten glass which sticks to the metal when ‘gathered’. The ‘gather’ is rolled on a thick steel table called a ‘marver’. Color can be added by rolling the clear glass in pieces of colored glass on the marver and put into the forge to keep it hot enough to manipulate. The entire time the rod is being rotated. The next step includes sitting at a wooden bench where the liquid can be shaped sometimes with a wooden paddle, a wooden cup with a handle, shears and/or tweezers. Several times in between forming the piece it is put back into the forge to maintain the heat. When completed it is taken off the rod with a bit of water to break the seal and a tap on the rod. The entire process is magical to do and to watch.  

CLASS BENEFICIARIES

I had the chance to visit the high school class, watch David and Carmi teach, and have conversations with some of the six students enrolled for the weekly semester class. In a word the entire experience for me was IMPRESSIVE. I’m sure some of my response is based on my 2-day class in September. Part of it is based on the ease with which the seniors handled the glass and navigated the tools and space. And, a lot of it comes from the teaching and collaborative spirit of the classroom/studio culture. We know that a teacher sets the tone and David and Carmi are TOP NOTCH! The students were serious about their work while having fun. I could see their confidence growing as they went through the process. Mr. Lovejoy said: “I am thrilled that Waterfall Arts, Carmi and David have been so accommodating to make this work for Belfast Area High School. I am excited to bring students from the Belfast Community Outreach Program in Education (BCOPE, the school districts community based alternative educational program) and underclassmen into the spring semester starting in February”.

Paddling the base to flatten it

STUDENTS COMMENTS

Ronin: “I was surprised on day 1 how we jumped right into the process even without any previous experience.”

Anna: “There is so much collaboration, that is a surprise. Each class has a different goal but we’re learning techniques that I didn’t realize I would use again and again. Like the ‘starter bulb’ we learned our first week while making pumpkins. I use it every class.”

Miles: “Everybody should do glassblowing – it’s awesome. It’s less scary than I thought it would be.” Miles is only applying at colleges that offer glassblowing.

The workspace with tools

DAVID AND CARMI

I’m impressed with the level of teaching. Many successful artists are not good at teaching. David and Carmi are successful at both. Watching them in action with the high schoolers is magic. They’ve been pleased and/or surprised about the following:

  • every week the students are enthusiastic about learning
  • student team work is amazing – they’re very generous and helpful to each other
  • very dedicated
  • we communicate with them like we would with adults
  • thought they would be more ‘product’ oriented, instead they are ‘process’ focused
  • 2 hours is not enough, extended class time to 3 hours for those who can stay longer and they all do
  • students are fearless

David and Carmi will make some changes for the next semester based on what they’re learning this first semester with and from the six seniors. Like any good teacher this information will help them build and expand on the program for the future. Between the dedicated staff and the establishment of this new program I’m certain we’re going to hear about this fantastic Waterfall program for many years. Kim is working to make Waterfall Arts everybody’s place, a destination. Not just through programs but also taking care of the maintenance on the building. The capital campaign has raised funding to replace the roof, re-surface the parking lot, and plans to replace 72 of the buildings windows. The glass studio expands Waterfall’s creative involvement. Kim said: “People want to be part of something successful. Our future is bright.”

Glass with a pinched handle

ARE YOU CURIOUS?

Perhaps you’re one of those people who would like to become part of something successful or you’re curious. If so, be sure and plan a trip to Waterfall Arts. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can get involved, take a class or perhaps give someone a unique gift of a 2-hour class for the holiday please go to Waterfall’s website at THIS LINK. If you’re interested in supporting the program please contact Kim Fleming at kim@waterfallarts.org.

FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS for you to ponder, discuss with your own community, use as a starting place for a conversation to start doing work (or play) differently or by responding to the blog below in the section called ‘Leave a comment‘ or Like this post.

  • Why are the Belfast High School seniors so successful?
  • What makes this collaboration with Waterfall Arts, Belfast High School, and the glass studio so beneficial?
  • What are some ideas to make this into an interdisciplinary unit in the school curriculum with perhaps Art, Science, Writing?
  • Is there a potential partnership brewing in your community? What can you learn from the glass studio at Waterfall that might help in your partnership?
  • What are you already doing in your own work (or play) that mirror success?

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Who Are They?: MECA, Part 4

April 1, 2015

Maine College of Art

This blog post is part of a series called Who Are They? where information is provided for the Maine Arts Ed blog readers to learn about community organizations and institutions that provide educational opportunities in the arts. You will learn that they are partnering with other organizations and schools to extend learning opportunities, not supplant.

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This is the fourth post on the Maine College of Art (MECA) which is located in downtown Portland. Chuck Hamm is MECA alumni and a great advocate for Feed Your Soul. Chuck teaches visual art at Belfast Area High School. In Chuck’s own words…

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